The Beaver Chronicles
Bogs, Beaver and Bubbles

Today was the first frost of summer. [Yes, you read that right.] Colin and Cherie starting sampling bubbles in the crisp early morning in Tierra del Fuego National Park. While it had rained most of the day before in town, it snowed in the high country. Good thing we had an awesome view of the snowy mountains while catching bubbles..bog water sure is cold (6C). Those beaver; they have impounded every possible inch of space in the archipelago!


Tomorrow we start even earlier - first light to be exact. It’s our last ‘round-the-clock methane sampling marathon! So, you’ll have to wait two days for the next update.

Canadian to Canadian

Amy and May took a day to hike a Beagle Channel camino (trail) while Colin and Cherie sampled bubbles in Tierra del Fuego National Park. The highlight of the day was the wildlife viewing opportunities.

Apparently 50 years without natural predators have made the beaver a little less wary. This one was so close to us the whole time we were sampling that we could see it wriggle it’s nose up. Must have smelled our Canuck scent and thought it was back home.

Tomorrow, Amy and May are off to Chile (Puerto Williams), via a zodiac! Hopefully they make it back in time for May’s plane on Saturday. (May’s actually stressing while we write this, and looking up the details of her trip interruption insurance). The rest of us, are off to sample more National Park bubbles. It’s pretty there.

The Reality of Field Work

Ok, I know, each of you thinks everything here is pretty darn yippy skippy. Particularly given that the blog (so far) reports our field work days and site-seeing adventures.

I must admit that I hesitated writing this particular post, but am posting it because I think you all deserve the truth. The truth is that while it is super fun to carry out your research dreams (I’ve (Cherie) been dreaming about coming here to study beaver for 10 years), there is a price, on the home front. I’m a researcher with two young girls (ages 2.5 and 5 years), I can tell you that it is mucho hard to be away for this long, especially in a place lacking reliable internet access. In fact, I don’t plan to be away from them this long again until they are grown! And, to top it off, they’ve both been really sick the whole time I’ve been here indulging in my research (thank you Travis!), which has led to me fighting a serious case of self-imposed ‘guilt trip’. And, it’s not just me who misses her kids. Colin has a 6-week old at home, and misses her terribly. We have both been lucky enough to have grandparents fly in to help ease the single-parent burden (thank you sooooo much!!), and are also fortunate to have extremely supportive and understanding spouses who encouraged us to come here. 

So, we are trying to make the most of this gift of a once-in-a-lifetime trip (i.e. research expedition). We are working hard to collect all data needed to publish a few research papers (which are the currency of an academic scientist), but are also trying to fit in a little fun, so that we have some good stories to tell our girls.

Stay tuned for reports on tomorrow’s adventure!

Thanks to every one of you following us on our adventure.

Nighttime Bubbles and Sea Lions

The first overnight methane sampling event was a big success, despite a lack of photos and the freezing night time temperature. The bonus of sampling bubbles at night in the boonies? An amazing view of the Southern Cross!

David and Cherie took Jon, the Fullbright scholar, on a coastal trekking adventure, as it was David’s second last night in Ushuaia. We were very lucky - a pod of sea lions swam up and down the coast. I think they were following us, curious about the Canadian.


Colin, Amy and May are off to our Nothofagus pumilio (Lenga) site for another overnight adventure. They promise to take photos :) David, Jon and Gaston are also going to the Lenga site to take slabs of dead trees to figure out when they died. Cherie is off to survey up a storm at the National Park site (Magellanic rainforest) with Chris!

Business Casual

Although we left our suits at home (except Colin), there was plenty of Armani to go around today. Mr. King, Mr. Magellanic, Mr. Gentoo, and Mr. Bear entertained us on Isla Martillo (minus the wine and dine).



The penguins were all runway divas, singing songs and handing out kisses to the birthday girl.




And, for our 2 and 5 year old audience (yes, you Ama and Brooke), we ran into the star of Happy Feet today. He posed for photos but wasn’t quite into signing autographs.


In all, it was a pretty fantastico way for Cherie to start the last year of her 30s!


We did manage to squeeze the beaver into our day off though via the Harberton Museo…


We are back to more serious matters tomorrow. Amy, Colin and May are planning a 24-hour-methane-sampling-marathon at our farm pool site (nire forest). Wow, that is going to take some serious stamina and a good sense of humour!

Who says beavers need trees?

What better way for May and Amy to spend a day off then to hike a Patagonian mountain to see Glacier Vinciguerra. After Colin navigated us as far as he could by car, we headed through the gates and were en route to an epic adventure. Note: Tierra del Fuego hiking maps aren’t the most reliable. We found no bridge or trail head…..

Luckily, our path finally crossed the marked trail. The bushwacking paid off with an incredible view…..

Views of the Beagle Channel, picnic lunch by the lake, followed by snow skiing, and exploring the glacier ice cave. Epic day.

And to top it all off….we found beaver ponds in the alpine! They truck their twigs from waaay down below. Colin, do you want to sample these for methane?

P.S. We finally found the bridge….8 hora (hours) later.

Today, the group is off to see the pinguinos (Penguins) on Isla Martillo for Cherie’s birthday! Penguin suits optional.

Field Mate

Here in Argentina, there are no siesta’s. It’s just too cold (except this week). Instead, people take a little mate break at 5 pm. It’s something you do in between lunch (noon) and dinner (9:30 pm; yes, you read that right). Mate rhymes with karate, and it’s something you share around. Mate is not a real tea, is actually leaves from a holly tree. The Argentine’s are also good at improvising in the field - Gaston brought a plastic mate container instead of the traditional dried gourd one. Being a botanist, David was right in there.


Amy’s Miracle on Tari Street

We left Amy behind, in the thick fog, to fix our expensive, high quality GPS, which thought it was in Northern Russia instead of Ushuaia. In between watching Spanish soaps, and slaving over her spaghetti sauce, she called our favourite Leica tech (thanks Jeff), and got the sucker on line. YEAH! Guess what we are doing tomorrow? That’s right. Surveying up a storm. We poured her an extra tall glass of inexpensive Argentine gin to celebrate.

The rest of us headed north of Lago Fagnano to our farm pool (Nothofagus antarctica) site. Do you think the water quality is poor when your assistant May disappears underwater while sampling bubbles?

Here’s a photo of David, who is elusive like the beaver!

Caliente (hot, hot, hot!!)

Yesterday was the hottest, clearest day of our trip. May even wore a little tank. It was a good day to go and catch some stinky bubbles…stinky methane bubbles that is. Nothing like waiting for bubbles to magically appear in tubes while gazing at Chile’s Darwin Range.image

Nothing like finishing the day looking at an empty bottle of Beagle Channel Beer. Nice. Oh yeah, May is turning into a dendro-hydrologist. Nice tree coring form. Too bad it was a rotten one.


Good Field Days

The end of the Pan-American highway. So cool.

And, at the end of the highway, what do we encounter? A native red fox of course. So cool.

Very near to the end of the highway is a visitor’s centre (it’s in the National Park). They serve Beagle Channel beer. So cool.

Yesterday we did a little eco-archeology. We found a whole cow skeleton buried in the peat. Given how deep it was buried, it was probably over 100 years old. Way cool!